Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder
Maintaining Employee Health in Winter Months
As winter begins, and the days get shorter, it’s common to experience sadness or irritability as the season begins. These feelings may be symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression that occurs in the fall or winter and diminishes in the spring and summer. Some people may experience the opposite seasonal pattern, but it’s more common in the fall and winter when there is less natural sunlight. In either situation, the symptoms of SAD are mild at first, become more severe as the season progresses, and are usually mild or nonexistent during the summer months.
Symptoms of SAD that you may notice in your employees may include the following:
- Anxious or sad feelings
- Low energy and fatigue
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering details
- According to the National Institute of Health, not everyone experiences the same symptoms of SAD
The exact cause of SAD is unknown, but it has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain that is triggered by the lack of sunlight in the winter. Another cause may be the disruption of your biological clock (also called your circadian rhythm) when the seasons change, which may cause you to feel out of sync with your daily schedule.
The most common treatment for SAD is light therapy, also called phototherapy, which involves sitting near a light therapy box that exposes you to very bright light for 30 to 90 minutes a day during the winter. Depending on the duties of your employees, encourage walks outside during lunchbreaks — even on cloudy days — and rearranging workspaces or homes to increase exposure to natural sunlight during the day. Promote exercise and healthy eating for addition in in reducing SAD and healthy employees all year long.
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